Fine Art Portraiture
This 22" x 28" oil painting is entitled 'Portrait of Sarah', a private commission with the purpose of capturing this delightful bead jewelry designer practicing her craft. Sarah Young's business is Vineyard Sky Bead Design and her studio is located in Vineyard Haven on the island of Martha's Vineyard. A cozy spot with warm sunlight, the studio is also floor to ceiling with boxes and bags and vials of colored beads awaiting her creativity.
Many sketches were made before arriving at this particular composition which catches Sarah in the midst of her work. The painting hints at the materials with which Sarah surrounds herself and brings the attention to rest squarely on her hands and the welcoming expression on her face.
Elizabeth Whelan looks for an opportunity to describe an aspect of her sitter's life and invites the viewer to participate in the scene she has painted. These portraits create a memorable connection between audience and subject and bring our present to future generations.
(To see this and other portraits in progress, please visit
Elizabeth Whelan's blog.)
When the Martha's Vineyard Museum sponsored a portrait competition with the theme of "Island Faces", Elizabeth immediately thought of Dale McClure as a portrait subject. She says:
"Dale is the president of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society and is heavily involved with preserving the agricultural heritage of the island. I have the utmost respect for people like Dale, hands-on hard workers who can make things happen on many levels in a community and lead by example. His passion for the island is evident.
We met at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury on an early December day. I asked Dale to dress casually and to pose for me with a favorite piece of machinery, which he did."
This painting is 36" x 36", and when hanging at eye-level gives the impression that the viewer is standing beside Dale, chatting to him in front of the stalls. Reflected in his glasses are the abstract shapes of other buildings on the grounds. This portrait was a finalist in the competition, and was displayed at the Martha's Vineyard Museum in Edgartown as well as at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts.
(View portraits in progress on Elizabeth Whelan's blog.)
The portrait process typically begins with a phone call, during which fees, size, subject matter and schedule are discussed. Elizabeth then makes arrangements to meet with the subject in person, followed by a photo session and often some quick sketching in oil or conte crayon. This meeting usually takes a few hours, and is important to the success of the final painting.
When Elizabeth is back in her studio, she selects a number of the sketches and photographs that she believes will combine to create the best composition, creates a rough layout and asks the client to approve the general direction. Elizabeth proceeds with the portrait, sending a digital image to the client when the portrait is 75% complete.
Changes and adjustments are made at this time, and the portrait is taken to completion. If necessary, a final sitting is arranged. Upon viewing of the final painting client satisfaction is paramount.
When the painting is complete Elizabeth Whelan can deliver the portrait depending on the destination or ship it via an insured carrier.
Completion of the portrait can vary from two to six months.
Elizabeth Whelan uses only her own photographic reference, without exceptions, unless the commission is for a posthumous portrait. Before agreeing to a posthumous portrait Elizabeth would like to see the reference from which she will be working. as that will be key to achieving a high quality finished work.
Portrait fees begin at $2500 and vary depending on the size of the canvas, complexity of the background and number of people in the painting. (See next question for complete list of sizes and fees.)
A deposit of 50% of the fee is requested at the time of or prior to the initial sitting (which includes a sketching/photography shoot) with the signing of a contract. The remainder is due when the painting is delivered in person or prior to shipment.
Fees do not include travel, framing or shipping. Elizabeth Whelan has a relationship with an excellent custom framer and can arrange for a beautiful frame to set off your portrait, or advise should you wish to use your own framer.
These are the most frequently requested sizes and types of portraits, and are a guideline for fees. Please inquire for a firm quote and for detailed backgrounds, full-length portraits, larger groups of people, animals or complex settings.
|Canvas Size||Head/shoulders portrait||3/4 length portrait||2nd Figure|
|16 x 20||$ 2500||N/A|
|22 x 28||N/A||$ 6,000||N/A|
|30 x 36||N/A||$ 10,000||$ 17,000|
|36 x 48||N/A||$ 15,000||$ 23,500|
To make gift giving easy, Elizabeth Whelan offers a portrait gift certificate which you can purchase for $500.
As Elizabeth schedules a limited number of sittings a year, this guarantees you a sitting and the amount is then applied towards the price of your painting. And it's the perfect answer if you would like to give a portrait as a gift without having to let the recipient know your plans in advance.
Elizabeth Whelan will mail you a lovely 8" x 10" certificate which you can present to the recipient and a sitting will be scheduled at their convenience.
See below for sizes and types of portraits available.
Any location can be a workable portrait location. A portrait can be of a person relaxing in their favorite summer spot, or shown in their professional surroundings. Whether indoors or outdoors, formal or casual, the best portraits combine elements that tell the viewer something special about the subject.
Elizabeth usually travels to your location for the initial sitting, sketching and photography session. From this she will obtain the information she needs to proceed with the portrait.
Travel to any location on Martha's Vineyard is included in the price of the portrait. For all other locations, travel costs will be extra.
Often clothing style is dictated to some degree by the type of portrait : business or corporate, formal or relaxed, indoors or outdoors. It's best to have a few outfits on hand to try on during the first sitting as one may work better in a certain setting or light than another. A good rule of thumb is to feel as comfortable as possible in your clothing, so that you can feel relaxed during the sittings.
As most of the attention will be around your face, think of the neckline and jewelry for women, tie or collar style for men. Avoid trendy clothing unless it suits the type of portrait being painted. Likewise it's preferable to have no, or minimal, makeup to avoid distorting skin tones.
An advantage to a painted portrait is that unlike photography, the goal is to achieve an excellent likeness but not necessarily reproduce every detail! So minor issues such as clothing wrinkled from travel are not a worry.
Travel, lodging, shipping and framing are not included in the portrait pricing.
Travel to sittings on Martha's Vineyard is free, as is delivery in person on Martha's Vineyard.
The length of time it takes to paint a portrait can vary greatly even between two portraits of similar size, composition and background. The simple answer is that it takes many hours of sketching, painting, analyzing, and more painting, to keep the portrait moving towards completion and that for each portrait the time spent at each stage can be wildly different.
Elizabeth Whelan has found that instead of counting hours she simply starts the process and aims for a level of excellence and completion that she will recognize when she sees it, and at that point the painting is finished.
Although it is possible to work diligently towards, for example, an unveiling on a particular date, unlike her illustration work it is not possible to cut corners and work in a different style in order to make a very short deadline. For this reason she, like the majority of portrait artists, gives a wide window of 2 to 6 months to complete a painting based on the size and complexity of the portrait and other commissions scheduled.
An oil painting of any sort needs to dry for a considerable time after it is complete and before the final layer of varnish is applied. The time depends on the thickness of the paint applied and the types of mediums used, however a 3 to 6 month period can be expected.
Depending on the needs of the client, Elizabeth Whelan can apply a thin layer of matte damar varnish at the completion of the painting in order to deliver the portrait in a timely manner, and at a time 6 months or so later either she, or a local framer, can apply the final layer of varnish after the painting is completely dry.